Sports chiefs given control of funding

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The Independent Online

The Lottery funding system for British sport is to experience a massive shake-up. In what will be seen as a snub to Sport England, the governmentfunded body currently responsible for distributing some £200m annually, the power to choose who receives this cash will be handed directly to sport's governing bodies.

The Lottery funding system for British sport is to experience a massive shake-up. In what will be seen as a snub to Sport England, the governmentfunded body currently responsible for distributing some £200m annually, the power to choose who receives this cash will be handed directly to sport's governing bodies.

But before they get any money, the governing bodies must ensure that their leading athletes undertake coaching duties in schools and the community. They must also agree to organise after-school competitive leagues for youngsters and guarantee that at least 5 per cent of any income from televised events will be ploughed back into school and amateur sports.

A source close to the Department of Culture, Media and Sport said: "It is important to get Lottery money as close as possible to the grass-roots of sport. These changes will encourage the modernisation of sports administration, help more people get involved in more sports and improve the chances for promising and talented sports people."

The decision to cut through the red tape that has bedevilled the funding system since its inception five years ago has been taken by the Sports minister Kate Hoey, and will be confirmed later this week as part of the Government's new Sports Strategy.

Other measures will include extra funding from the Treasury - believed to be between £70m and £100m - for upgrading school sports, and the first review of all existing facilities for sport in this country. The number of hours spent training PE teachers is also to be increased dramatically.

In exchange for being given the right to negotiate and deliver their own funding, sports bodies will have to agree to modernise their structure and administration, or, as one Government source put it, "drag themselves in the 21st century".

While priority this year will be given to Olympic sports because of Sydney 2000, all sports of "national significance" will now have the right to make their own funding arrangements for individual competitors rather than having to go cap in hand to Sport England.

Among those organisations that will benefit is the Lawn Tennis Association which has failed to produce a Wimbledon champion in more than half a century despite a huge income from Wimbledon itself and substantial existing funding.

Sport England, formerly the England Sports Council, is chaired by the former England footballer turned TV pundit Trevor Brooking. This weekend Ms Hoey has been discussing with him the implications of the shake-up. While she is happy enough with Mr Brooking's role, she is less enamoured with the administrative set-up at Sport England. Since taking over as Sports minister last July, she has become increasingly angry at the way Lottery distribution has been handled.

At one meeting with Sport England officials she described the complicated system as "a dog's breakfast". She also hit out at some of the lengthy delays in making grants, citing the case of an application for a judo mat made last April that was finally approved a month ago. The minister has also received many letters from sports bodies and individuals calling the system incoherent and unfair. "It is easier to get money out of Fort Knox," said one coach after his organisation's application had been turned down. Some sports bodies have complained of having to pay up to £3,000 to hire expert help in filling in the forms, some of which have more than 20 pages.

Last night the changes were welcomed by leading sports bodies. David Moorcroft, chief executive of UK Athletics, said: "A lot has been achieved by the Lottery but huge improvements can be made because we've all got bogged down in the process. We shall certainly play our part by co-operating and making our athletes available for schools and community work, which is already part of our own strategy."

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